Spotlight: Defensive Backs

Jim Fossum
Sean Smith

This time, no one expected Marshawn Lynch to touch the football. He didn’t . . . and this time, no one cared.

With virtually every starter sitting in last Thursday’s 17-13 exhibition-ending home loss to Seattle, the Raiders’ desire to strengthen their secondary overshadowed the former Seahawk star’s Bay Area arrival at running back. The offseason focus remained on dismantling the notion that the best defense is a superb offense.

Urging his players to produce quality video for his staff to evaluate, third-year Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio called on his defense “to have fun and rip it up” while trying to improve on its ranking of 26th among the 32 NFL teams in total defense (375.1 yards per game) last season.

Despite going winless, rookie safety Shalom Luani appeared to enjoy the exhibition season as much as anyone. The seventh-round draft pick from Washington State intercepted an overthrown pass against the Seahawks to further secure the roster spot he appeared destined to attain early in preseason.

Meanwhile, third-year seventh-round draft pick Dexter McDonald will join Luani on the Oakland sideline. The former Kansas cornerback survived falling down and being beaten for a 34-yard first-half touchdown by scrambling to knock away a probable TD reception toward the end of the first half.

Second-year cornerback Antonio Hamilton of South Carolina State also earned a spot alongside an established group of DBs comprised of David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Gareon Conley, Karl Joseph, Keith McGill, Obi Melifonwu, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith.

Despite a first-half interception, undrafted rookie free agent Breon Borders wasn’t as fortunate. Without backside help, he was beaten for a late score and found himself on the practice squad following the weekend cut from 90 to 53 players.

Mobile Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota will provide the revamped Raiders secondary its first test when the Tennessee Titans break the huddle Sunday in Nashville.